First up is the Musidora Stakes on Wednesday – in which the second favourite for The Oaks, So Mi Dar, faces six rivals – then comes the Dante Stakes on Thursday, featuring The Derby favourite Midterm and 11 others.
Providing camerawork allows, Timeform will be analysing events in detail from a sectional point of view, and hoping to get as clear a steer as was provided in the Dante 12 months ago by Golden Horn, who won the race in a smart time and with good sectionals, and who went onto a clear-cut success at Epsom.
The analysis will take into account rail movement, which is reported to be reducing the advertised distance of the Musidora by 42 yards and of the Dante by 31 yards. Perhaps, some day, British racing will get its act together sufficiently to see to it that such alterations appear in both pre-race and post-race data where possible.
Sectional analysis can be forward-looking as well, of course, and it tells rather contrasting stories about the prospects of So Mi Dar and Midterm.
Midterm is an archetypal sectional poster boy: a horse who has run a good overall time and even better sectionals. That came on the second of his two starts, in which he landed Sandown’s Classic Trial with the fastest time of five over course and distance on the day, resulting in a timefigure of 111 and a sectional upgrade to that of a further 9 lb.
A figure of 120 – which Midterm already looks capable of – should be comfortably good enough to win a Dante and might even win him a Derby, but he does face significant opposition on Thursday.
The Dante also features the one-two-three in last year’s fast-time Royal Lodge Stakes, with Foundation worth a sectional rating of 117, Deauville 116 and Muntazah 107 in that race. The first two were beaten in the Racing Post Trophy thereafter, though Foundation (also beaten in the Craven Stakes on his return) endured a nightmare run that day.
The York race will also provide the first test of this year’s 2000 Guineas form, courtesy of the fifth-placed horse in that, Kentuckyconnection (104 sectional rating), and another appearance from the highly promising Victory Bond, who ran a 98 sectional when trotting up in a Ripon maiden.
The Midterm who achieved plenty and promised still more at Sandown is fancied to have the measure of his rivals, but they are good enough to make that no forgone conclusion. The Dante is a race to watch closely, whether or not you have a bet in it.
So Mi Dar is likely to be an even shorter price 24 hours earlier for the Musidora, but time analysis is not so complimentary in her case.
Her cause has been advanced by the subsequent wins of the two she beat in the Derby Trial at Epsom, Humphrey Bogart and Viren’s Army, but that collateral boost does not alter the fact that that race resulted in only a respectable overall time and closing sectionals.
So Mi Dar was around 1 second slower overall, as well as in the last three and a half furlongs, than the older handicapper Dark Red later on the card, the latter coming in a race which got much bigger sectional mark-ups.
Dark Red is useful and was carrying less weight, but So Mi Dar’s time still does not compare all that well. A sectional rating of 103 for her is as positive an interpretation as could be justified.
Among her rivals in the Musidora are the 1000 Guineas fourth Fireglow (106 sectional rating) and the good two-year-old winner Promising Run (111 sectional rating: will be conceding 4 lb). That looks enough to be taking on a short-priced So Mi Dar with.
The gelding who was second to Dark Red in that Epsom Handicap goes in the opener on Wednesday and can be fancied to be there or thereabouts again. Pacify ran fastest of all from the turn of any runner at beyond a mile at Epsom that day and has been getting better with each of his recent runs.
Other interesting horses from a sectional point of view on the first two days include: Flaming Spear (shaped quite a bit better than result at Newmarket); Muhaafiz (recorded a decent overall time despite going fast at Haydock); Lady Macapa (showed bright speed at Sandown last time and could shake up some listed sprinters); and Gulliver.
The last-named went into the notebook due to some sharp sectionals when fourth in a potentially very hot two-year-old maiden won by Global Applause at Newmarket on 1000 Guineas Day. A big step forward can be expected in Thursday’s contest from the Hugo Palmer-trained colt.
G3 - The Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Steeple Chase
G2 - Prix Raoul Balliere
G2 - Prix Ariste Hemard
G3 - Victress Stakes
G2 - Premier Trophy